By Peter McNamara
Dublin are simply too strong
Retaining Sam Maguire is as difficult as retaining the Champions League trophy.
Still, 2016 should be the year whereby Barca and Dublin buck the trend and land the European and All-Ireland titles respectively.
There are similarities between the two teams with both as relentless in their desire for success as the other.
If there is one slight difference between two of the most dominant sporting commodities around at present it is that the Metropolitans actually probably have a greater depth of quality within their squad.
The more you see of Dublin the more you think all the others are literally playing for a place in the League and All-Ireland finals against them only.
It might seem early to state but Dublin will win both competitions again.
At the business end of the Championship Mayo might be best-placed to challenge them.
Still, even Stephen Rochford’s outfit will do well to get within four points of Gavin’s army.
I honestly believe Dublin’s reserves could mount an All-Ireland title challenge.
Quite simply, Dublin are off the charts.
That may seem strange to say after Gavin’s side won by just one point against Monaghan.
Yet, so clinical and methodical was their performance it was borderline scary to watch.
It was as if that had Malachy O’Rourke’s visitors assembled a six-point advantage with five minutes plus added-time remaining that Dublin still would have found a means of winning.
There is ice coursing through the veins of their players.
Their opponents are merely competing for places.
No defence for Cork
With the exception of London, statistically the worst team taking part in the Allianz NFL right at the foot of the fourth-tier, no other side has shipped more than Cork defensively.
That’s a frightening reality for supporters of the Rebels.
A total of 6-51 has been conceded by Peadar Healy’s side in three League matches.
Therefore, to further illustrate the initial point, if a table was put forward indicating scores conceded only, Cork would be 31st out of the 32 outfits in the League in its entirety.
Context, of course, is all-important while assessing these figures and the Leesiders are, after all, contesting the top-tier against the elite teams.
Nevertheless, alarm bells will be ringing by the banks of the Lee today because Cork have encountered a decimated Mayo, an albeit impressive Donegal and newly-promoted Roscommon thus far, two of the three games on their own turf.
Given the westerners annihilated Cork by 18 points hitting 4-25 including 4-22 in open play, what are Dublin likely to score at Croke Park against them next Saturday night?
Granted, Jim Gavin’s charges will not necessarily hit the Rebels for even anywhere near that tally.
Yet, Healy and co will be reeling currently.
Roscommon are here to McStay
Kevin McStay’s managerial presence will lead to Roscommon becoming a major player in the big league this season and beyond.
However, do not make the mistake of lumping them into the bracket of All-Ireland title contenders this season.
Yet, victory against a hapless Down side at Dr Hyde Park next Sunday will all but secure their top-flight status for at least one more season.
Therefore, their primary objective this term will have essentially been met by March 6 barring a disaster of epic proportions thereafter.
And McStay will be cast as the mastermind behind that achievement, correctly too.
Ciaran Murtagh grabbed the headlines for notching 2-3 (0-1 from a free) at Páirc Uí Rinn while Roscommon joint-manager Fergal O’Donnell does the majority of talking to the media before and after games.
Nevertheless, it is McStay’s footballing brain that is ensuring the Rossies are boxing clever.
Now, it must be remembered that in terms of physical preparation the westerners are significantly ahead of others at present, but physicality will only get you so far at this level.
In fact, the crucial difference while operating among the elite tends to be tactical.
And McStay is providing such a significant element in abundance.